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  • Mary Carolla

What is Oncology Massage?



I love massage, both as a practitioner and as a recipient. Oncology (cancer support) massage has a near and dear place in my heart. When I was going through treatment for breast cancer, and now as I navigate some of the longer-term effects of that diagnosis and treatment, massage has played a big part in improving my quality of life and keeping me feeling well. I am eternally grateful to those practitioners of oncology massage who have worked with me.

So, what exactly is oncology massage?

Let’s start by talking about what it isn’t. Massage is not a treatment for cancer. It is a way to help manage the side effects of treatment, to help relieve the stress that can accompany a cancer diagnosis, or to provide support for palliative care.

Oncology massage is not a super-specific set or sequence of techniques used for people with cancer. There are techniques or modalities that are more appropriate than others, and certain adjustments need to be made depending on a persons specific needs (just like any massage).


A therapist trained in oncology massage has learned to recognize the need for those adjustments, has an understanding of the various treatments used for different types of cancers, and keeps updated on changes to clinical recommendations for massage when working with someone living with cancer. An oncology massage session from two different therapists may look different, but they will all have one thing in common: The massage will be designed to reduce the demand on the body.


Reducing Demand on the Body Cancer and it’s treatments are extremely hard on the body; whether it’s surgery, chemotherapy or other drug therapies, radiation, or some combination of all. Add in the accompanying anxiety, and it is probably the hardest thing your body will ever go through. The purpose of massage for someone with cancer is to ease some of the side effects of treatment and create some restful time for relaxation.


Your body is going through so much; your massage is an opportunity to reduce some of that demand on your body. Oncology massage sessions are planned with this goal in mind. Massage can be adjusted for any stage, type of treatment, or side effect. Communication is key, and we will take time to discuss your particular needs before your session.


If you are a person living with a cancer diagnosis, massage can help. Let’s talk so we can develop a plan that is right for you.



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